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Jurors find Williams eligible for death penalty

By Star-Advertiser

& Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:15 p.m. HST, May 23, 2014

U.S. District Court jurors in Honolulu decided Friday that former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem J. Williams is eligible for the death penalty.

The same jury last month found Williams guilty of capital murder for the child abuse beating death of his 5-year-old daughter Talia. They began deliberating Thursday on whether the former Schofield Barracks soldier is eligible for the death penalty, and reached their decision Friday afternoon.

They now will return to court for the sentencing phase of the trial before U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright to decide whether Williams, 34, will be executed.

Hawaii's territorial government abolished capital punishment in 1957, meaning the death penalty hasn't been an option in Hawaii since it became a state. But Williams was tried in the federal system because the crime occurred on military property.

Williams is facing the death penalty for each of two counts of first-degree murder -- one is for killing Talia Williams on July 16, 2005, through child abuse, and the other is for causing the girl's death after months of assault and torture.

To find Williams eligible for the death penalty, the jurors needed to find that he acted with intent and that there is at least one aggravating factor.

Prosecutor Steven Mellin told the jurors Thursday that Williams knew what he was doing when he beat and tortured the girl. "He intended to inflict serious physical pain and abuse, and he did that," he said.

Mellin said the crimes were made worse because "his actions were incredibly cruel, incredibly heinous," and because the girl was especially vulnerable due to her young age.

Defense lawyer Michael Burt told the jurors that Williams is not challenging the aggravating-factor requirement. He said Williams hit his daughter to discipline her for soiling herself, not to inflict pain or injury. "The evidence does not show that Mr. Williams is a crazed, criminal sociopath," he said.

Burt suggested to the jurors that Williams' desire to change the girl's behavior through discipline was not a demonstration of a level of intent significant enough for them to consider the death penalty.

Following last month's guilty verdict, defense lawyers presented testimony from a psychiatrist, a neuropsychiatrist, a psychologist and two neuropsychologists who said that Williams' scores from multiple IQ tests they administered or reviewed fall within the range or on the borderline of intellectual disability.

The eligibility phase of the trial was essentially a replay of a pretrial hearing after which Seabright ruled that Williams is not mentally disabled.

Prosecutors presented testimony from their own experts who said Williams' IQ test scores, dragged down by a math learning disorder, were in the average to low-average range and that Williams functioned quite well in real-world situations. His former supervisor at Schofield testified that Williams is very able and is among the top 10 of the thousands of soldiers he has supervised in his 18-year military career.

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rnamiki wrote:
I'll volunteer for if death by firing squad, I'll even supply my own weapon and ammunition. Hawaii needs to reinstate the death penalty.
on May 23,2014 | 03:26PM
slsofos wrote:
I'm with you...
on May 23,2014 | 04:21PM
HD36 wrote:
Whatever happened to his local wife?
on May 23,2014 | 04:51PM
Skyler wrote:
on May 23,2014 | 06:03PM
Ken_Conklin wrote:
A few weeks ago I commented that I wonder how the leftwing bleeding heart liberals will find a way to say the death penalty is wrong. Someone then made a nasty rejoinder, saying "Why do you have to politicize everything?" And then the next day this newspaper published an editorial urging no death penalty. So, OK, it's time to hear from the leftwing bleeding heart liberals why the death penalty should not be imposed and carried out in this case.
on May 23,2014 | 07:30PM
RKC808 wrote:
I agree rnamiki. This soldier is NOT the only one here who deserves the death penalty. I believe any heinous crime against a child should be a qualifier for the death penalty.
on May 23,2014 | 07:54PM
slsofos wrote:
I hope he is executed...he needs to leave this world and start again...no one should live who kills and "Innocent"...she was only 5 years old and depended on him for everything...he didn't feed her and she would go downstairs to eat and he came home and beat her...he set her up, time and time again to torture her...animals are better then he, they don't torture their young...he is scrum...
on May 23,2014 | 04:24PM
kiragirl wrote:
This is sad in many ways. For the helpless victim and the person who was supposed to nurture her. It is sad for us, as a society, that we did not prevent it from happening. May God Bless her.
on May 23,2014 | 06:16PM
SueH wrote:
What will make it even sadder, is if the jury wimps out and doesn't reach a death penalty verdict. Weep all you want, but this monster deserves to die.
on May 23,2014 | 06:53PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
I think it's clear he's a very bad man but I doubt his intention was for her to die as a result of the abuse/punishment he and his wife dispensed upon her.
on May 23,2014 | 07:01PM
justchecking wrote:
saywhatyouthink ~ are you serious???
on May 23,2014 | 10:14PM
abird808 wrote:
Saywhatyouthink: he beat her everyday with his hands, fists, feet, belts. He punched her so hard he broke ribs...he HAD to know he was slowly killing her. She stopped being able to count to ten from his vicious beatings. He knew he was killing her. His wife did too. He needs to die and his filthy wife does too.
on May 23,2014 | 07:18PM
MililaniGirl wrote:
He needs to go and do does his wife! Both deserve the death penalty. The little angel, Talia, his daughter, did not have to endure the pain and suffering.
on May 23,2014 | 09:00PM
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